Rather than overtly state his overall plan for drastically cutting the HASA caseload, it seems that HRA Commissioner Robert Doar prefers to slip major HASA policy changes out in news stories piece by piece. They're often covered up by other verbiage that you have to pick through to find. It's like using ketchup to cover the taste of rotting meat.
Doar has served up steak again. Last week, AIDS activists learned that HASA "is also introducing work requirements for the 1,300 able-bodied adult dependents, most of them adult children of AIDS patients," as scribbled in a larger piece by Kay S. Hymowitz for City Journal, the "news" magazine published by the right-wing think tank Manhattan Institute.
As horribly mean-spirited as this new policy is, it's not surprising.
In February, VOCAL-NY leaked a memo from HRA that documented HASA's restructuring before they'd made it public. (They didn't make it public to the NYC Council during a hearing just two weeks prior to the leak.) HRA merged HASA into Customized Assistance Services (CAS), a division within HRA that focuses on welfare-to-work for HRA clients who have disabilities and medical conditions.
VOCAL-NY noted at the time that HRA had "NOT stated any plans to lift the work exemption for HASA clients."
But the writing was on the wall. On World AIDS Day, Doar announced several HASA changes in a Huffington Post op-ed, and spent a good deal of space talking about how happy HASA clients would be if they just would go to work. Doar wrote:
"Today, we don't just focus on providing emergency care. HASA caseworkers talk to clients about where they see themselves in the future, if they want to return to work or complete their education. We can help them achieve their goals, by first assessing their readiness and skills, and then linking them to volunteer work, part-time work, job training, skills-building activities, job searches and job placement. Many who survived the AIDS crisis of the '80s and '90s left their jobs and careers, expecting to succumb to the fate of their disease, too sick to continue employment. But when life-saving medications were introduced, many experienced improved health and a renewed interest in returning to work." So while HASA has not stated it is going to lift the work exemption for HASA clients, it has made several decisions that seem to suggest that's where it may be heading. It cut paying half the broker's fee, started giving voucher-based security deposits instead of cash payments to landlords. HASA itself is now housed under the welfare-to-work division of HRA, is going to make HASA dependents work.
Twenty five years after ACT-UP was founded, we're still fighting for the rights of people with HIV to get access to basic services. Please join us in demanding justice for people with HIV at the ACT-UP 25th Anniversary March on Wednesday, April 25th.